Hontiveros questions swift action on Pemberton case: Why can’t Filipinos get this privilege?
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros took exception to the quick action from legal institutions in releasing US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton based on his good conduct time allowance (GCTA), asking why Filipinos jailed cannot afford the same treatment.
Hontiveros in a statement on Thursday hinted at the Philippine judiciary and government possibly providing some sort of privilege to Pemberton.
Pemberton was convicted of killing transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014. But on Tuesday, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) released an order allowing the release of the convict.
“The swiftness by which our institutions have acted on a white, male American’s case is a privilege that is never accorded to many Filipinos. What message does this send to our citizens who have routinely suffered from our own justice system?” Hontiveros asked.
The senator, a staunch supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQIA+) community, also questioned why Pemberton was on the receiving end of the hotly-contested GCTA when he has never apologized to Laude’s family and other LGBTQIA+ members who have been affected.
“Pemberton was sentenced to 10 years in prison but his ‘hate crime,’ which he committed in ‘self-defense’, has so far resulted in less than six years of punishment. Many LGBTQI+ groups believe that six years is not enough, especially considering the gruesome killing he committed against Jennifer,” Hontiveros said.
“To rub salt into the wound, since Jennifer’s death in 2014, Pemberton has never apologized for the immeasurable pain he caused the LGBTQI+ community, the country, nor the Laude family, even when they and their lawyer asked for it. Those years of deafening silence, and now an early release — this is not what Jennifer deserves,” she added.
Reports came out on Wednesday that Olongapo RTC Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde signed the order stating that Pemberton has already accumulated jail time of 10 years, one month, and 10 days — including deducted time due to GCTA.
But earlier on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Pemberton’s release would remain on hold to await the court’s decision on the motion for reconsideration from the prosecution.
On Wednesday, activist groups also raised concerns on why Pemberton was released, especially on the basis of the GCTA which drew controversy in 2019.
It was suspended by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in August 2019 after it was revealed that several convicts who have committed heinous crimes may be released for showing good conduct inside a jail.
Hontiveros also asked whether Pemberton’s team was using the COVID-19 pandemic to sneak in an early release. Pemberton’s sentence was for 10 years, but with the GCTA, his actual time only lasted six years of imprisonment.
“It also seems that Pemberton’s team saw the pandemic as an opportunity to plan his release, as they filed a Motion for Computation in June under the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law then filed a Motion for Release in August,” Hontiveros said.
“I hope the court will give due course to the motion for reconsideration of Jennifer’s camp,” she added. [ac]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.